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Hawkins opts for right shoulder surgery

August 24, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Following the results of another MRI on his right shoulder Friday, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins has opted for arthroscopic surgery to repair his rotator cuff and labrum.

Hawkins, 37, will leave the team Sunday to fly home and spend some time with his family before flying Wednesday to Los Angeles, where Dr. Lewis Yocum will perform the scope on his shoulder.

“It’s scope, but he said if he sees anything else, he’s got to fix it,” Hawkins said. “We’re praying and anticipating he won’t have to do anything else but just clean up. When I wake up on Friday, I’ll know exactly what he had to do.”

The recovery process for Hawkins will vary, depending on whether the arthroscopic procedure is sufficient in repairing the “fraying” on his rotator cuff and labrum. If it is just a scope, Hawkins said he could be throwing again before Thanksgiving.

“If he has to put a stitch in there or something, it’ll be a lot longer,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins, 37, has struggled with shoulder issues all season, which has kept him on the disabled list for much of the year. The first indication of injury came in Spring Training, when Hawkins reported tightness in his shoulder after pitching March 11.

That issue seemed to have resolved itself shortly thereafter, as Hawkins was lights out through his first four appearances of the regular season. Hawkins was tagged for seven runs on six hits in his next two outings before giving up just one run in his next six appearances.

Finally, after he gave up a walk-off grand slam to Andre Ethier at Dodger Stadium on May 6, the Brewers sent Hawkins to the disabled list with right shoulder weakness.

Hawkins remained on the DL until pitching again July 30, in Houston. He pitched five times after his return, including an ugly outing in a 15-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, where he allowed three runs on four hits in one-third of an inning.

“I threw that pitch in Spring Training — I felt tight,” Hawkins said. “Then I recovered again and I threw the ball well, and then [went on the DL]. Just like I recovered this time, it breaks back down again.”

Hawkins said he initially planned to rehab in Dallas, saying the Brewers had a “guy they work with in Dallas that’s going to work with me.” After working in Dallas, he planned to be back in September to spend time with the club and let trainer Roger Caplinger look at the progress on his right shoulder.

Regardless of the length of recovery, Hawkins now has his eyes set on pitching in 2011 the way he was expected to this season after signing with the Brewers.

“If we get it right and I can be back next year and pitch the way I’m accustomed to pitching — being out there and being able to be used once every three days, that’s not what they signed me for,” Hawkins said. “They signed me to pitch the way I’ve been able to pitch, three out of four days, five out of seven. I just haven’t been able to do that.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hit-by-pitch issue bubbles over in loss

August 4, 2010 Comments off

CHICAGO — Ken Macha finally reached a tipping point on the Brewers’ hit-by-pitch issue in Wednesday’s 15-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

With his team trailing 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins was ejected for hitting Alfonso Soriano after giving up a three-run homer to catcher Geovany Soto.

After seeing the pitch barely graze Soriano about waist high, Macha was irate over the call, prompting a heated discussion between the Brewers manager and home-plate umpire and crew chief Tom Hallion.

Once Hallion had heard enough, he sent Macha to join Hawkins in the visitors’ clubhouse.

Macha has had several discussions with Major League Baseball officials over the past month as the hit-by-pitch rate of his batters continues to rise. In this Cubs series alone, the Brewers have been hit four times, including one to the head of Carlos Gomez.

Before those seventh-inning fireworks, sixth-inning struggles proved costly once again for Manny Parra and the Brewers.

In each of his 13 starts this season, Parra (3-9) has been unable to pitch beyond the sixth inning. On Wednesday, Parra surrendered five runs on four hits and a walk in the frame, costing the Brewers a chance at a sweep.

After he left, he didn’t get much relief from the bullpen.

Todd Coffey entered for Parra with two on and two out in the sixth and promptly surrendered a pinch-hit three-run homer to Aramis Ramirez, which proved to be the eventual game-winner.

After Coffey was Hawkins, who pitched one-third of an inning, giving up four straight hits, including the three-run home run to Soto before he was ejected for hitting Soriano.

David Riske was then tagged for two runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Offensively, the Brewers got to Cubs starter Ryan Dempster in one big inning, which was bolstered by a throwing error on the part of third baseman Jeff Baker.

A clean throw from Baker would have ended the inning, but instead, Jim Edmonds scored from third on the play and a Corey Hart double one batter later gave Milwaukee a 3-1 lead.

Thanks to the Cubs’ offensive outburst in the sixth, though, Dempster (9-8) got the win.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 7/27

July 28, 2010 Comments off

Hart likely to remain with Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Right fielder Corey Hart said all along that he wanted to remain with the Brewers. This isn’t exactly the scenario he had in mind.

Hart missed his fourth consecutive start on Tuesday with a sore right thumb and said he’s hoping to return to Milwaukee’s lineup on Friday in Houston.

“I felt better throwing today than I did yesterday,” Hart said. “I took some dry swings today because it was feeling better. I’m not quite ready, but it’s a lot of progress from the past couple days.

“I probably still won’t play tomorrow, but I might be able to hit tomorrow. … Then I’m sure I’ll do stuff on the off-day in Houston, and then I’d imagine I can do everything on Friday. I think I’ll be ready on Friday.”

The ill-timed injury has likely cost the Brewers any chance to shop their All-Star right fielder in trade talks ahead of Saturday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Before he was hurt in a collision with the outfield wall last weekend against the Nationals, Hart was reportedly drawing some interest from a number of teams, including the Giants, Padres, Braves and Rays, all of whom possess the kind of young pitching that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would seek in return for one of his established hitters.

But as the Brewers continue to win, carrying a five-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s contest, manager Ken Macha and the club would like to get Hart back on the field as soon as they can, provided he remains in a Brewers uniform.

“I spoke with him today. He still has some discomfort, but he says it’s getting better every day,” Macha said. “I asked him about the Houston series and he’s feeling good about that.

“He’s still a ways off. I asked him about Houston, he said he hopes so.”

Hawkins eyeing weekend return

MILWAUKEE — After more than 2 1/2 months on the disabled list, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins finally has a set date for his expected return to the Brewers.

“He’ll probably be activated during the Houston series,” manager Ken Macha said.

Hawkins, who went on the DL with right shoulder weakness on May 9, pitched two scoreless innings on Monday night for the Nashville Sounds, allowing just two hits, while tossing 21 strikes in 28 pitches.

Most important for Hawkins, a 37-year-old right-hander, he has not had any setbacks since beginning his rehab assignment, and he felt as good on Monday night as he has since going on the DL.

“When you’re injured, you always have to think about, ‘Am I ever going to feel like I felt before I got injured?'” Hawkins said.

Since starting his rehab assignment on July 15, Hawkins has pitched for the Brewers’ Rookie League team in Arizona, as well as the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville.

Hawkins, who is in his 16th season in the Major Leagues, learned a lot during his time away from the field.

“You kind of find yourself when you’re on the DL. You’ve got a lot of time to think and reflect and do a lot of other things that make you not take this game for granted,” Hawkins said. “Going back to the Minor Leagues is definitely a humbling experience, seeing those guys and how hard they work.

“It makes you appreciate where you are and what you have.”

With his return expected this weekend in Houston, Hawkins will be joining the club on the road trip, something that hasn’t happened in quite a while.

How does Hawkins feel to be getting back on the road with the club?

“Good,” Hawkins said, “especially going on the road in the big leagues.”

Brewers take part in community work

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers Community Foundation gave itself a well-deserved pat on the back Tuesday and announced it had raised $1.5 million so far in 2010 for nonprofit groups in Wisconsin.

Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Craig Counsell and Doug Davis attended a press conference at Rainbow Park in West Allis, Wis., to highlight the contributions of 15 Brewers players to various community causes. Those players then took part in mini-clinics with kids at Harvey Kuenn Field, which received assistance from the Brewers’ charitable arm last summer after sustaining flood damage.

Other Brewers were active in the community on Tuesday, too. John Axford, Zach Braddock, Chris Capuano, Kameron Loe and Dave Riske joined a group of former big leaguers that included Jim Gantner and Larry Hisle for a clinic hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Association Players’ Trust. More than 250 local Little Leaguers and members of the Boys and Girls Club took part.

A few hours later, Capuano, Counsell, Weeks, Corey Hart and Trevor Hoffman hosted the Players Association’s “Buses for Baseball” event. The players welcomed 50 students from Our Next Generation, an organization that provides academic support and other services to urban children.

Worth noting

Brewers prospects will be part of the Surprise Rafters in this year’s Arizona Fall League, and Double-A Huntsville manager Mike Guerrero will serve as the team’s skipper. The league announced its club and staff assignments on Tuesday, and the Brewers were paired with the Tigers, Royals, Cardinals and Rangers at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Royals and Rangers. Rosters are typically finalized in late August and play begins this year on Oct. 12.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 7/24

July 24, 2010 Comments off

Hart happy to find out wrist isn’t broken

MILWAUKEE — A day after slamming his wrist into the wall in right field, Corey Hart said he felt a little sore. The good news, though, is that an MRI on Friday revealed no fracture.

Hart said the exam was a relief: “Especially the way it’s going, I didn’t want to miss too much. I might miss a few days. I’ll take treatment until it stops hurting. I’m lucky I didn’t break anything. It could have been a lot worse.”

Hart injured his wrist Friday in the top of the third inning during the Brewers’ 7-5 victory over the Nationals. As he attempted to catch a long foul ball off the bat of Cristian Guzman, Hart slid and hit his right hand against the concrete wall below the padding.

Hart injured his wrist in a similar region of the ballpark where Braves outfielder Matt Diaz slid into the concrete wall and suffered a knee injury two years ago, which cost him much of the season.

Now it’s just a waiting game for Hart and the Brewers.

Hart was out of the lineup Saturday night, and Joe Inglett got the start in right field. Before the game, Hart sported a compression sleeve on his right wrist, which is intended to keep the swelling down.

Once he feels well enough to play again, Hart expects to return to the field. The Brewers have an off-day Thursday, which could give him an extra day of rest before returning.

But that’s not exactly his plan.

“I’d like to be in before then,” Hart said. “I’m probably not going to play these next two. Hopefully I’ll get at least a couple games against the Reds.”

Lucroy gets another shot at catching Parra

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha shook up his catching rotation Saturday night, putting rookie Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate with lefty starter Manny Parra.

Over his past three outings, Parra had been paired with backup catcher George Kottaras. Lucroy struggled with stopping Parra’s splitter, which resulted in several wild pitches.

“I had that because of balls getting back to the screen on the split,” Macha said. “I just feel that we’re going to try this fit because of results we can get with Manny, so we’ll try somebody else back there.”

In three starts this month with Kottaras behind the plate, Parra has a 1-2 record with a 10.89 ERA, allowing 19 earned runs over 16 innings on 28 hits, including five home runs.

Conversely, in five starts with Lucroy catching during the month of June, the Brewers left-hander went 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA, allowing 13 runs on 29 hits (four homers) over 29 innings.

Parra had 36 strikeouts against 13 walks in June, compared with 12 against seven this month.

So does Macha think having Lucroy behind the plate is going to result in a better outing for Parra?

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Macha said. “How did he do last time out? Sometimes catchers and pitchers get on the same page and it happens.”

Hawkins set for another rehab outing Monday

MILWAUKEE — Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins will rejoin the Brewers soon, but not before Tuesday at the earliest.

Manager Ken Macha said before Saturday’s game that Hawkins would pitch for Triple-A Nashville again Monday as he continues to rehab from right shoulder weakness.

“We’re just going to evaluate his Monday outing,” Macha said. “We’ll go from there.”

Hawkins pitched for the second straight night Friday, tossing 16 pitches over two innings while allowing just one hit as he earned the save.

Macha was hesitant to confirm that Hawkins would rejoin the club after his outing Monday, based on Hawkins’ own evaluation of his rehab outings, which Macha received from Brewers trainer Roger Caplinger.

“One of his other outings he kind of indicated he wasn’t really on top of his game quite yet,” Macha said. “I just got that report from Roger. I didn’t talk to [Nashville pitching coach] Rich Gale or anyone like that. Rick Peterson, our pitching coach, will talk to Rich Gale sometime.”

Worth noting

The Brewers’ comeback on Friday night, after being down 5-1 to win 7-5, marked their largest comeback victory of the season. They had previously come back from three-run deficits five times. … Milwaukee had homered in 12 straight games entering Saturday’s contest, going 8-4 during that stretch. It marks the longest streak for the Brewers since they homered for a franchise-record 20 straight games from July 1-24, 2008. … Prince Fielder entered Saturday’s game just one RBI shy of 500 for his career. He would become the 12th player in franchise history with at least 500 RBIs. … Rickie Weeks is on pace for 102 RBIs this season, all coming from the leadoff spot. Weeks would be just the second leadoff hitter in MLB history to eclipse the 100 RBI mark, joining Darin Erstad, who did it in 2000 with the Angels.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 7/23

July 23, 2010 Comments off

Hart day-to-day after injuring right wrist

MILWAUKEE — Corey Hart’s trade value may have taken a hit on Friday when the Brewers right fielder injured his right wrist attempting to catch a fly ball in the third inning of the 7-5 win over the Nationals.

But manager Ken Macha and the Brewers just want him in the lineup as soon as they can get him back.

As Washington second baseman Cristian Guzman drove a ball deep to right, Hart tracked it toward the right-field line and crashed into the wall as he attempted to catch the eventual foul ball.

Hart stayed in the game and finished out the top half of the inning, but was removed in favor of veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, who pinch-hit for Hart in the bottom of the third and hit a decisive two-run homer in the seventh.

After leaving the game, Hart underwent X-rays and an MRI on his wrist, which revealed no fracture.

Brewers manager Ken Macha was unsure how long Hart would be out, but considering the way his right fielder has swung the bat since the middle of May, he certainly would like to have him in the lineup as soon as he can.

“He’s day-to-day, as we all are,” Macha said. “We’ve got other guys that can fill in. Edmonds won the game for us tonight. But [Hart] can have a sudden impact on the game at any time.”

With Hart being the subject of a number of trade rumors this month, the injury could not have come at a more inconvenient time for the club, since any ailment or significant time missed complicates any trade discussions.

From his vantage point, though, Macha did not think the injury looked too significant.

He added that with the way Hart jammed his hand into the wall, the location of the injury required precautionary measures to be taken.

“When they were doing all the tests out in right field on him, it didn’t look that bad,” Macha said. “Where it was located, they were concerned there may be a small bone fracture in there, so they did the MRI.”

Crew concerned with level of plunkings

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers are tired of being bruised.

Entering Friday’s game, they had been hit by pitches 50 times this season, most of any team. Rickie Weeks (18 times) and Prince Fielder (16 times) rank first and second in the Majors. The Cubs’ Marlon Byrd has also been struck 16 times.

“It’s happening far too often,” outfielder Ryan Braun said. “Look, we understand that we’re a team that hits for a lot of power and they have to pitch us inside. There’s just times that guys are missing by too much with their fastballs, too often, to both [Weeks and Fielder]. That’s not something we want to be a part of, and when it does happen, obviously, we have to do something about it.”

Weeks declined to talk Thursday night about the Ross Ohlendorf pitch that struck him in the fifth inning and sparked some tempers on both sides of the field at PNC Park. Fielder, who had words with the umpires when the teams were warned later in the game, did not make himself available to reporters.

“I haven’t seen the ball that Rickie got hit with,” manager Ken Macha said after Thursday’s game. “But from what I understand, it was in the middle of the batter’s box.”

After the incident Thursday night, Macha did his part to work on eliminating the problem.

“I had another conversation with people from Major League Baseball today,” Macha said. “They’re looking into it.”

As for what he thinks should be done about the issue, Macha made it clear he thinks some suspensions should be in order for the pitchers who are hitting his players.

“They’ve got to get the guys that perpetrate what goes on,” Macha said. “I don’t know people’s intent, but evidence is mounting. … Fining and suspending managers, I don’t think that’s going to get it done. Managers aren’t throwing the balls.”

Macha said he hopes by talking to MLB officials that he can eliminate the problem before it reaches a point where his players are required to retaliate in a significant way.

He added that he doesn’t think MLB would want such action to occur, either.

“That’s why I’m using the avenues that I am. I don’t think the alternative is what Major League Baseball wants, and that’s going out and having a brawl,” Macha said. “They don’t want that. I think that’s why they were trying to clean this up.”

Miller Park largely spared from flooding

MILWAUKEE — As up to eight inches of rain pounded the Milwaukee area on Thursday night, it seemed likely Miller Park would be affected by the flooding that impacted much of city. After all, the ballpark suffered extensive damage after a strong storm a year ago.

Thanks to a recently installed berm between Miller Parkway and the Brewers’ staff parking lot, however, the service level at Miller Park was not affected by the storms Thursday night.

According to Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes, credit goes to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“The DOT, in the spring, really did a phenomenal job building this berm,” Barnes said. “They put up a berm to prevent any sort of flooding coming into the south dock.

“The water got up on the berm pretty high, but they nailed it. If this was a once in a five-lifetime rain or whatever they’re saying it was, then it did its job.”

Last summer, a major rainstorm resulted in damage throughout the service level, which includes the home and visitors’ clubhouses as well as batting cages and a media interview room, among other things.

As a result, all the furniture and upholstery in the home clubhouse was required to be replaced — with temporary replacements last season and more permanent furniture and carpeting prior to the start of this season.

After the storm Thursday, the damage at Miller Park was no different than any other above-average rainstorm.

“Sort of ironically, the service level is bone dry, and then in some of the areas of offices on the field level we had a few areas that got some water in them,” Barnes said. “Brewers enterprises, the ticket offices and the administrative office entrance had some water in them.

“I wouldn’t call it standing water, it was more of a nuisance. So we’re having to make some repairs there, but quite honestly, we’ve had some water come in there a couple times already this year.”

Brewers bussed home from Chicago

MILWAUKEE — While the Brewers were in Pittsburgh throughout much of Thursday night’s storm, they certainly were among those who felt its effects.

Rather than fly as regularly scheduled from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee, the club was forced to fly into Chicago as General Mitchell International Airport was closed due to flooding on the runways.

From there, the Brewers bussed from Chicago to Milwaukee. According to Brewers broadcaster Cory Provus, the team’s flight landed in Chicago at 1:30 a.m. CT, while the bus arrived in Milwaukee just before 3 a.m.

“I think I was in bed by 3:30, I’d say,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “It’s no big deal. It’s just like playing a night game in Boston and then going to Kansas City.”

Worth noting

Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins threw 11 pitches for Triple-A Nashville on Thursday night. According to Brewers manager Ken Macha, Hawkins was scheduled to pitch another inning Friday for the “back-to-back days” part of his rehab assignment. … Left-hander Zach Braddock was unavailable once again for the Brewers on Friday. Macha said that Braddock was undergoing treatment and would likely miss a couple more days. … This weekend, the Brewers will celebrate their teams of the 1990s. Friday night, they wore reproductions of the Brewers uniforms from 1997-99 while welcoming Greg Vaughn and Jeff Cirillo back as part of the celebration.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 7/11

July 11, 2010 Comments off

Hart joins Braun as All-Start starter

MILWAUKEE — What a week it has been for Corey Hart.

A week ago, Hart was named to the All-Star Game for the second time as a reserve outfielder for the National League.

One week later, he has been added to the starting lineup.

Hart, who will participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby, was announced Sunday as the replacement for injured Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, joining teammate Ryan Braun in the starting outfield for the NL.

“I was excited, then I got really excited when Brauny came in and kind of like jumped on me,” said Hart, who hit a two-run walk-off homer, his 21st, to cap the Brewers’ 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. “We haven’t had two position players in the starting lineup for I don’t know how long. So it’s a pretty good moment for us.”

It’s the first time in 27 years that the Brewers will have two position players in the starting lineup as Braun and Hart share the outfield in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Anaheim.

The last pair of Brewers position players to start together in the All-Star Game were catcher Ted Simmons and shortstop Robin Yount for the American League in 1983.

Braun, who is the first Brewers player to start in the All-Star Game three straight years, joined Ben Sheets in the starting lineup in 2008, as Sheets was the starting pitcher for the NL.

For Hart, the starting nod just adds to an already impressive first half of the season.

After struggling for much of the 2009 season, Hart had a poor Spring Training, leading to his benching on Opening Day.

Hart expressed his displeasure with being taken out of the Opening Day starting lineup but used that move as the motivation behind his surprising resurgence.

It has paid off so far as he has moved from the No. 7 spot in the batting order to No. 2, becoming one of manager Ken Macha’s most reliable hitters.

More importantly, though, Hart earned the respect of the rest of the league, as he was voted into the All-Star Game by his peers.

“It’s pretty nice,” Hart said of being added to the starting lineup after all he has been through this season. “It’s an extra stamp on the, ‘I told you so,’ I guess. I love it here, and I wanted to prove to them that I could be the guy again.

“I’ve always told them I wanted to be here and I want to stay here as long as they’ll let me. Obviously they were down on me, so I wanted to prove them wrong so they could get a good feeling about me again.”

Hawkins’ rehab stint starts Thursday

MILWAUKEE — After two months on the disabled list, LaTroy Hawkins finally will return to game action on Thursday, for the Brewers’ rookie league team in Arizona.

Hawkins is scheduled to pitch one inning in Arizona against the Cubs’ rookie league squad. If all goes according to plan in that outing for Hawkins, the veteran reliever will go to Nashville to continue his rehab with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate.

“I don’t know exactly what the schedule is, but he’s going to get back-to-back days and he’s going to get a two-inning stint also,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Hopes are that he may be back around the Cincinnati series [on July 26-28].”

The true test over the next two weeks for Hawkins will be the back-to-back days he pitches with Nashville, Macha said based on his conversation with pitching coach Rick Peterson.

“It’s broken up into back-to-back days and then a two-inning stint, and I think the back-to-back days are right before the Cincinnati series,” Macha said. “Rick’s feeling is if he’s fine after the back-to-back days he should be ready to join us.”

No slowing Axford’s surprising rise

MILWAUKEE — If anyone said they saw this coming from John Axford, they’d be lying.

Since being called up on May 15, Axford has emerged as the Brewers’ closer, something no one would have expected in Spring Training with the all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, on the roster.

Axford, a 27-year-old native of Ontario, Canada, hasn’t just taken hold of the closer’s role for the Brewers either. He’s been consistently dominant in the late innings for the Crew.

“Who knew he was going to come and do this?” manager Ken Macha said of Axford.

With his save in Saturday’s win over the Pirates, Axford maintained his perfect mark, having converted 10-of-10 save opportunities. Along with that impressive streak, Axford is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA.

Axford made his 22nd appearance of the season Saturday, and finally surrendered the first home run — a solo shot by catcher Ryan Doumit — of his Major League career.

“We got the win, we got the save, that’s all that matters,” Axford said. “Obviously I don’t want to give up that home run, the first one of my career. It was going to happen at some point or another if I want to keep going in this game, obviously.

“It’d probably be a miracle if I didn’t give up one if I kept playing.”

Axford has quickly become a fan favorite, due in large part to his facial hair.

When first called up, Axford sported a handlebar mustache, the ends of which he occasionally curled, giving him a look reminiscent of former Brewers closer and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.

He has since switched to a different look with the mustache, but remains a favorite among Brewers fans as he continues to impress in the ninth. After being called up in September 2009, Axford’s goal was to return to the big leagues in 2010 out of Spring Training.

He had to wait until May, but his first two months in the big leagues this season have been better than anyone could have predicted.

“It’s been great, it’s been fun,” Axford said. “Coming out of that ‘pen, obviously the emotions are going and everything like that. But on the mound, I try to calm it.

“Outside those lines, everything’s been fantastic, it’s been great. I’m feeling happy all the time no matter what’s really going on. I’m happy to be here, especially in the situation I’ve been put in to have the confidence and the trust of the staff. It’s been a blessing.”

Braddock becomes reliable source of relief

MILWAUKEE — Three rough outings aside, Zach Braddock has been as reliable as any Brewers reliever since being called up in late May.

Braddock surrendered four runs in the ninth inning of a 10-4 loss to the Mets on May 30, one run in an inning against the Cubs on June 9 and three runs to the Rockies in just two-thirds of an inning on June 19.

In his other 16 appearances through Saturday, Braddock had not allowed a run.

It adds up to a 1-1 record with a 4.32 ERA in those 19 appearances for Braddock, who also had allowed five of 13 inherited runners to score.

“I’ve had my struggles, but I’ve also had my successes,” Braddock said. “Learning this road is keeping those as evenly keeled as possible. You never want to have those bad days, but it’s how you pick up off them and how you come out the next day and get right back at it.”

Since giving up three runs in Colorado on June 19, Braddock entered Sunday having pitched 6 2/3 innings over eight appearances without allowing a run. He also has given up just six hits and one walk over the same stretch while recording seven strikeouts.

In his time with the big league club, Braddock has been fortunate to spend every game in the bullpen alongside all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. The experience has been invaluable for Braddock.

“A lot of the older guys have helped me, but obviously, the no-brainer is Trevor Hoffman,” Braddock said. “His experience speaks volumes over my time here. And I don’t even have to seek out help. Sometimes all it takes is to observe his daily routine.”

In addition to the veterans on the club, though, Braddock has benefited from playing alongside a couple young players like himself in catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer John Axford.

For Braddock, the familiarity with Lucroy and Axford has only made his experience in the Majors that much better.

“It’s always great to have friends with you, and it’s always great to have guys who you can bounce the experience off,” Braddock said. “We’re all going through this together.

“With the bond that Jonathan and I have, it can only strengthen that between us as a battery. And with Ax and I, it can only make us better to share our experiences out there with each other.”

Manager Ken Macha named fellow relievers Kameron Loe and Axford as “pleasant surprises” before Sunday’s game.

As for Braddock, however, his performance has been about what Macha and the Brewers had expected out of the lefty.

“He’s been in some games where he’s done extremely well,” Macha said. “He’s gotten hit hard here, too. Kameron Loe, he’s an invitee to Major League camp and then he comes in and has the impact he’s had. I’d say that’s a bigger surprise.

“We all knew Braddock had great stuff.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 6/29

June 29, 2010 Comments off

Crew must alter rotation for Davis’ return

MILWAUKEE — At least one Brewers pitcher likely will not make their regularly scheduled start in the next homestand, manager Ken Macha said Tuesday.

If everything goes according to plan in his rehab start Wednesday for Class A Wisconsin, lefty Doug Davis will return to the rotation sometime during the Brewers’ four-game series with the Giants.

Macha does not expect to use a six-man rotation, which means one Brewers starter — not Yovani Gallardo — will be bumped from a start in the San Francisco series.

“Unless we have two guys throwing at the same time,” Macha said. “Six, I don’t think that’s going to happen. If we do six, then that pops somebody out at the other end over the last three days there.”

Without Davis’ return, the Brewers’ probable pitchers for the Giants series would be Dave Bush, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson and Manny Parra. As Davis’ rehab start falls on Wednesday, his next outing on regular rest would coincide with Bush’s scheduled appearnace.

While Davis is anxious to return to the rotation, he understands it will force out another starter, something he is not pleased to do.

“They’re going to have to cut ties with somebody with me coming back,” Davis said. “I hate to see anybody leave and get sent down, or whatever it is, because of me.

“I know it’s part of the game, but if we’re winning I have no reason to say, ‘I can come in and do better than this guy.’ With the way we’ve been playing and the way they’ve been pitching, I can’t.”

At the same time, the success of the rest of the pitching staff only makes Davis want to get out on the mound that much sooner.

“There’s only so much you can do on the DL to help your team win,” Davis said. “Just to get back out there and get on the mound and actually contribute to a winning ballclub is something that you really can’t replace on the DL.”

Hawkins shows progress in bullpen session

MILWAUKEE — With another day came another step forward for reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who is finally seeing some progress with his right shoulder weakness.

Hawkins threw off the mound in a bullpen session Monday for the first time since going on the disabled list. By all accounts, things went as well as could have been expected.

“All reports were good,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “[Pitching coach] Rick [Peterson] was very pleased. I asked [bullpen catcher] Marcus [Hanel], who caught him, and he said he had some late life, he had pretty good velocity, free and easy. A lot of positive things.”

Macha said he planned to announce what the next step would be for the veteran right-hander after an upcoming bullpen session.

“We’ll wait until after Thursday,” Macha said, “and then I’ll do that update.”

Coffey working out arm angle issues

MILWAUKEE — Another reliever appears to be having arm angle issues for the Brewers.

Todd Coffey has struggled in his three appearances since returning from the disabled list on June 20. The right-hander has relinquished four runs — two earned — in one total inning of work. According to manager Ken Macha, the angle of his pitches is the issue.

“Flat. Everything’s flat in the zone,” Macha said. “Guys that he normally gets out — I think [Hunter] Pence was 2-for-11 off him and [Pedro] Feliz was 1-for-11 off him — they whacked him pretty good.”

While Coffey’s arm angle may be the cause of the flatness of his pitches, Macha said something else is causing him to have those issues.

The Brewers’ hope now is that Coffey will do what needs to be done to fix it. On Tuesday, the first step was early work for Coffey in the bullpen.

“He pulls off the ball, his front side opens early and his arm drops down,” Macha said. “He went into ruts like that last year at times, and he got it straightened out.”

Riske unconcerned with rare rough inning

MILWAUKEE — He was bound to give up a run eventually.

But the issue was not that Milwaukee reliever David Riske let Houston touch the scoreboard on Monday. The noticeable difference in his effectiveness was the cause for concern for some.

“Those hitters get paid, too, just like I do. It happens,” said Riske, who was not troubled by his outing. “You can’t be perfect every time.”

Riske, who had not allowed run in his first six appearances since coming off the disabled list June 8, surrendered two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning against the Astros.

According to Riske, his delivery may have been too fast, which caused his arm to drag a bit. He added that he wasn’t throwing as many strikes as he usually does. Manager Ken Macha said he thought Riske left some pitches up with a lack of movement.

“His split and changeup have been very good,” Macha said. “But when they were belt-high, they would up hitting them.”

Riske said he did not go back and watch his inning — and he does not plan to do so.

Instead, he just plans to move forward and try to get better results next time.

“I was just a little off, I had an off night,” Riske said. “I’m not worried about it. Not at all.”

Brewers add Jeffress to 40-man roster

MILWAUKEE — With an open spot available, the Brewers added right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the 40-man roster on Tuesday, optioning him to Class A Wisconsin.

Milwaukee designated Chris Smith for assignment when reliever Todd Coffey was activated from the disabled list, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. Smith eventually accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Nashville, but the open spot remained.

Jeffress, 22, was a first-round selection by the Brewers in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. His time with the club has been marred by separate 50- and 100-game suspensions for testing positive for “a drug of abuse.”

Since signing with the club in 2006, Jeffress has played for the Double-A Huntsville Stars, Class A Advanced Brevard County Manatees and the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs